Hugs and Kisses 23: Vampire Weekend Bassist Chris Baio on His Favorite Records


Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio at the Cake Shop during CMJ, photo by Rebecca Smeyne

A little background for all you Vampire Weekend fans. Hugs and Kisses is a weekly Sound of the City column from UK-based music writer Mr. Everett True, author of Nirvana: The Biography (da Capo Press) — one more book about one of the most overrated bands of the Nineties — and publisher of Plan B Magazine, a title dedicated to writing about music (and media) with barely a nod towards demographics.

True is the guy who gets “credited” with introducing Kurt to Courtney and maybe even “inventing grunge,” though Wikipedia says Mark Arm has dibs on that. Point being: Everett True was, like, there before Cracker.

Hugs and Kisses

The Continuing Outbursts of Everett True

THIS WEEK: a momentary aberration as Everett wrestles with the prog-rock/world music demons that lurk within many people’s pasts, but not his

NEXT WEEK: that missing Kate Nash interview, promise… the tape has been recovered from Isaac’s music box

Um. Here’s the deal.

Anyone following this column will know of my antipathy towards ‘world music,’ the phrase, the notion, the patronising — albeit (arguably) well-meaning — attitude of folk like Sting and Peter Gabriel towards cultures not their own, the tepid African rhythms that inform a ream of WOMAD-championed Western artists… the whole shebang.

Sends a shudder through my bones, it does.

So when I spot a ‘critic’ from NY Times spouting phrases about Paul Simon’s seizure-inducing 1986 monstrosity Graceland like, “It’s getting harder to find people who pretend to dislike [that] masterpiece,” you have to understand that hackles are raised. Mine. It doesn’t help that the phrase is being spouted about Vampire Weekend, Columbia University alumni who’ve released one gorgeous single in the UK, ‘Mansard Roof,’ that reminds me of the Horace Andy side of Bristol UK mid-Nineties trip hop stars Massive Attack (with some ‘modern’ beats and star-gazing guitar thrown in). It doesn’t help because, 1) I’d been trying to sell said band on basis of said single to my editor at Plan B — I was even heard dropping the words “Jerry Dammers” and “The Specials” like they weren’t sacred — and 2) the whole horrendous Paul Simon/Graceland/chirpy yet poignant/”world music for the masses” (um, think Phil Collins pretending he’s Getatchew Mekuria) comparison is entirely justified when it comes to the remainder of Vampire Weekend’s debut album, out early 2008. Man, it sucks. Um, no disrespect to people who really enjoy listening to mid-period Police B-sides and Paul Simon’s Zydeco period intended.

Whatever. I still love the single. And hell, Graceland sold a fuck of a lot more copies than Pylon and The Slits and Huggy Bear and Young Marble Giants and Getatchew Mekuria (probably) combined. So there are obviously people out there who enjoy this stuff. So, for you — and hell, I really mean no disrespect: there’s nothing wrong with liking mediocre, suck-y, derivative preppy music if liking mediocre, suck-y, derivative preppy music is your bag — here’s Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio’s life, as told through some of his favourite records.

No disrespect intended.

What’s your favourite record…

To dance to?
“We don’t do much dancing but when we were on tour in Europe there were a couple of opportunities for dance parties… songs like a lot of cheesier Genesis hits from the Eighties, The Invisible Touch [the pop-prog Brit band’s 13th studio album from 1986]. [Kanye West song] ‘Champion’ with the Steely Dan sample. ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ by Justice was playing a lot at the parties we went to. I’m definitely a big Depeche Mode guy for both dancing and drinking: and I go for certain rap as well — Nas and Kanye West and Jay-Z.”

To drink to?
“Our drummer really likes drinking to The Band. There are certain songs on the most recent National album that are good to drink to. I’m more of a beer guy as is our drummer [Chris Tomson]. Ros [Rostam Batmanglij, keyboards, production] is a cocktail guy, vodka — and our singer [Ezra Koenig] can’t drink cos of his voice. We’ve been taking it pretty easy on this tour cos we’ve been looking after ourselves. We did a little drinking in California, and in Austin as well. We’ve been hitting a lot of places in the Midwest where we didn’t know anyone, and we’ve had fairly long drives as well. George Jones is pretty good drinking music. New Order would be good for both drinking and dancing to.”

That nobody else likes?
“Hard to say, there aren’t that many records that only one person likes [oh, I don’t know — bitter ‘elitist’ music journalist]. The first band I ever saw live was Cracker — I was nine years old. If I heard that now I wouldn’t like it, but cos it was my first concert I have good associations with that band.

You ever bought?
“Queen, Classic Queen. I still like it. It could be Greatest Hits. It’s the one with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on. They were selling it on MTV with an ad trailer featuring the guys from Wayne’s World singing along to it in the car. I was maybe seven, and I was like, I really like that song, so I’ll get that album.”

Most recently bought?
“I haven’t gone record shopping for while. I’m in San Francisco today and I’m going to go to Aquarius Records and buy something, maybe the new Ghostface. I bought something on iTunes recently — Abacab by Genesis [1981, seventh studio album — if you want some cheap laughs at the expense of pseudo-literate rock fans, check out the Wikipedia entry on this record]. We were doing a photo shoot and someone was playing ‘Keep It Dark,’ so I bought that, but the rest of the album isn’t as good for me as that song.”

To play last thing at night?
“When I was little I would listen a lot to Doolittle by the Pixies before I went to sleep. It was a pretty frenetic sort of record, and it was more exciting than sleep-inducing… but maybe I didn’t want to go to sleep. At college, it would be something like Hex by Bark Psychosis, very chilled — also Spirit Of Eden [1988] and Laughing Stock [1991] by Talk Talk. They’re all very relaxing albums. I usually play music right before I fall asleep: it’s seldom I go to sleep with the music on.”

To play first thing in the morning?
“In college it would be the same stuff as when I went to sleep, as I eased into the day. Now, if I want to get into the day, some Squeeze or [1974 album] Kimono My House by Sparks.”

To shake off a hangover?
“No music.”

To fill a dance floor?
“‘Grindin’ by Clipse from a couple of years ago, that beat is pretty incredible. I DJ-ed a pretty good amount in college. I did college radio: certain student events that were sort of cheesy but we’d be paid money. People would want to hear Top 40 hits for the most part, and that was fun – there were certain E-40 [Cali Bay Area rap] songs that would make people go crazy.”

To clear a dance floor?
“Any noise song, hypothetically — but I don’t think any of us really listen to too much of that.”

That you’ve appeared on?
“That would be Vampire Weekend — Vampire Weekend. I really like the way it ends in a big fadeout on ‘The Kids Won’t Stand A Chance.’ None of us are big fadeout guys, but we really like that song ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush which has a great fadeout.”

Of all time?
“I don’t have one. I’ve never had one. I’ve never been able to do that.”

Hugs And Kisses Top 5

Tunes that Everett True doesn’t think are suck-y, this week — and making no outlandish claims for anything any of these artists may produce in the future, either

1) ARETHA FRANKLIN, “Talk To Me, Talk To Me” (from the snappily-titled Rhino 2-CD compilation Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul)
Aretha doesn’t suck: even when she’s singing with Luther Vandross, even when she’s singing with Mariah Carey, even if George W Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, even if Rolling Stone like her. She just doesn’t, OK?

2) DAVID THOMAS BROUGHTON VS 7 HERTZ, “Weight Of My Love” (from the Acuarela album David Thomas Broughton Vs 7 Hertz)
David Thomas Broughton doesn’t suck: even if he likes Smog. He sings when he’s buttoning his cardigan up. He sings when he’s buttoning his cardigan down. I wish more artists would.

3) BAD LUCK CHARMS, “Impossible Love” (from the Consumer Productions album Rant & Drift)
Bands from Tasmania don’t suck — least none the ones I’ve heard have. Bad Luck Charms have heard The Ex, and they’ve heard Mission Of Burma, and if they haven’t then – well, they don’t need to, actually. (The first part of this paragraph is untrue, actually, but it read snappily at the time.)

4) RINGS, “Mom Dance” (from the Paw album Black Habit)
Rings really don’t suck. Maybe you’re getting them confused with their boyfriends.

5) PETE AND THE PIRATES, “Ill Love” (from the forthcoming Stolen Recordings album Little Death)
Pete And The Pirates suck less than a flotilla of flat-mouthed crater frogs. Look. You want to make something of this?

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